Tel: +44 (0)20 7235 1010
Address: The Berkeley, Wilton Place SW1
Cuisine Type: French/Thai fusion
Hyde Park Corner, Knightsbridge (PICCADILLY)
Fusion food can be hit or miss – rather like matchmaking your flower-arranging best friend with your other half’s rugby-playing flatmate. They say opposites attract, but more often than not, it’s a bit of a non-starter. And so with fusion cooking – the marrying of diverse cuisines such as the understated delicacy of French cooking with the fiery spiciness of Thai food, as Vong claims to do.
Whilst the decor has none of the plushness of fellow Berkeley resident La Tante Claire, its minimalist stylishness has an unpretentious feel to it and service, though less formal, is equally friendly, efficient and knowledgeable. Unusually, the kitchen is on display through glass windows, the calmness of the staff reflecting the slickness of the operation.
The menu draws from a much broader Oriental influence, featuring ingredients such as wasabi, tamarind and fish sauce. An ideal (but at £19.50/person, an expensive) way of sampling a number of Vong’s most popular starters is to order the signature “Black Plate”, also the choice of many of our fellow diners. Our waiter explained that the selection of “dim sum” was to be eaten in a particular order with specific dipping sauces interspersed with a “palate cleansing salad”.
Crab spring rolls with a tamarind sauce were followed by tuna shashimi, bundled up with colourful strips of vegetables in diaphanous rice sheets, chicken and prawn satay sticks with a cucumber and peanut sauce and lobster daikon roll. Each morsel would have been tasty on its own, but accompanied by the zingy sauces, provided a veritable feast for the taste buds.
From the mains, we tried melt-in-the-mouth tamarind glazed duck, served with pineapple rice and asparagus, and spice encrusted sea bass with a sweet and sour vegetable broth so delicious that every last drop was lapped up. We rounded off the meal with a perfectly timed, but slightly over-sweet, passion fruit souffle, though our waiter also highly recommended the warm Valhrona chocolate cake, and a muscat with overtones of orange.
The bill? £150 for two, including service and 3 glasses of wine (we didn’t want to break the bank by ordering bottles from the extensive wine list). Was it worth it? Well, yes. Not so much for the quality of cooking, but more for the uniqueness of the experience. The explosion of flavours that are at once familiar and yet hard to pin down. The sheer originality, almost audacity, in combining what does not obviously go together (think wasabi ice cream…) and making it work. Would I go again? Maybe… but I better get saving now.